What You Need to Know About Your "Flaky" Friend With Anxiety

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
We’ve all had friends cancel plans on us — and it can definitely be disappointing. Maybe you have a close friend who consistently cancels last minute, and you’ve found yourself getting frustrated with them. For some people, though, there’s something going on underneath what appears to be always “bailing.” Sometimes, what seems like being a “flaky" friend on the outside is really a way of coping with debilitating anxiety on the inside.
So if a friend is constantly canceling plans, don’t automatically assume they don’t care about you or the plans you’ve made together — there could be a reason why they canceled.
We wanted to know what people who have come off as “flaky” had to say about this, so we asked members of The Mighty's community who struggle with anxiety to share one thing they wish others understood. We hope their answers can shed light on how to support a friend who is struggling with anxiety.
This story was originally published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
1 of 12

I can’t make anyone understand what I go through.

“I ignore texts and calls because it’s easier than having to explain myself. I can’t make anyone understand what I go through so I rather go ghost.”

— Jackie P.
2 of 12

I’m not purposely flaking out.

“I’m not purposely flaking out. I could be 100% excited about it, then right before I head out the door, I decide to stay home. Because just thinking of a social outing or event drains me before I even walk out the door. I literally think of everything that could happen, the people I could talk to, the things that could go wrong… etc. It’s hard to deal with. And no, I can’t just ‘pop my meds’ and be good to go.”

— Bree N.
3 of 12

Please have patience.

“I really, truly wish I could turn off the voice in my head that some days (for no rhyme or reason) holds me prisoner in my own home. I love spending time with my friends, I love going out and dancing and exploring my surroundings and I love a good laugh. But the little voice of anxious self-deprecation is often louder than the voice of logical reason. I don’t enjoy this way of life. I wish I weren’t such a flake. But at the moment, I’m not completely in control of my own mind. Please have patience, [and] don’t give up on me!”

— Maysen F.
4 of 12

The invite means I still matter to you.

“If I manage to make it out, I’ll be late… this is because I’ve been arguing with myself, about whether or not I can handle where I’m going/what I’m about to do. So please be patient, and keep asking me to do things… I might flake out a lot, but the invite means I still matter to you.”

— Jenny B.
5 of 12

I’m working on myself every day.

“I want to be with my friends. I want to go through with my plans. I want to function outside of my comfort zone. But I am not at the point where I can cope with that yet. I’m working on myself every day. One day, I’ll get there. I just wish for support and understanding.”

— Mia C.
6 of 12

It has nothing to do with you.

“There are days when I physically struggle to leave the house, let alone get out of bed. I am left shaking, feeling nauseous, [experiencing] bad chest pains and uncontrollable crying. It has nothing to do with you. It is genuinely me and I am trying to get myself together, but in that moment I’m in the grips of a panic attack and I need you to back off and leave me alone.”

— Emma C.
7 of 12

The internal monologue is sometimes only quiet alone at home.

“Sometimes dragging myself to an event is not worth the emotional toll it takes to recover. Crowds, driving at night, paying for a meal — those all make me stressed and I might not even enjoy the people because my brain can’t stop thinking about other things. The internal monologue is sometimes only quiet alone at home.”

— Jordan T.
8 of 12

It’s so hard to stop pretending like I’m fine.

“I’ve been practicing my entire life to look like everything is fine. To look like I feel okay. ‘Normal.’ But I’m not. Far too often I’m terrified and panicking on the inside. Or I’m anticipating being panicked or exhausted and incapacitated from socializing and feeling hyper anxious. I cancel so many plans due to anticipatory exhaustion and panic. I know how it looks and I know people don’t get it, mostly because I really don’t let on what’s really going on. Because it’s so hard to stop pretending like I’m fine.”

— Amanda S.
9 of 12

It’s not worth the damage it does to me.

“My anxiety drains my energy. Yes, I technically can overcome that anxiety and meet up with you for a bit, but I know my body and what it can handle and nine [times out of] 10, I will crash and you will need to drive me back home, mid-panic attack. Is that worth it for you? …Because it’s not worth the damage it does to me.”

— Leah G.
10 of 12

I spend the day fretting and worrying.

“If I’ve made plans, I spend the day fretting and worrying about every little thing that could go wrong so much that when the time comes, I’m just too emotionally and physically exhausted to go through with it.”

— Morgan S.
11 of 12

I have already raced through what I think you will say.

“It’s not that I can’t concentrate on the conversation, it is that I have already raced through what I think you will say, and how I will respond and something else has occurred to me and if I don’t say it when it pops into my head, I may be too nervous to say it at all… Then I will literally go over our conversation time and time again, trying to figure out when a better chance to say that other important thing would have been.”

— Crystal M.
12 of 12

My racing heart and trembling hands are too much to handle.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be there, it’s that my racing heart and trembling hands are too much to handle. When I say, ‘I’m sorry I won’t make it tonight,’ I really mean, ‘I literally can’t breathe thinking about all the possible outcomes if I leave my house.’ I wish my friends understood rather than getting angry.”

— Melina A.

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